The Thing (1982)

20 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

What can I say about “The Thing?” On one hand, it’s an effective, well-made science-fiction/horror movie with a sense of atmosphere and ultimately nifty, well-crafted special effects with elements that I hadn’t seen before. On the other hand, there is a lot of gore and disgusting imagery involving the hostile creatures in this movie, most of which I’m not sure I would even want to see again. It’s an uneasy movie to watch, but it is well-executed—I guess that makes it a reason to recommend the movie as a critic.

“The Thing” centers around a U.S. Antarctic expeditionary crew who follows their routine one day until a dog appears on their outpost, followed by a Norwegian chopper in pursuit. With the Norwegians dead, the dog stays at the post as the people go to figure out what’s going on. They find the Norwegian’s base and find all sorts of secret documents and videotapes, containing information about some thing that was frozen underground and unthawed. No prizes for those who guess that the thing is a spaceship.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out the dog wasn’t the innocent victim of a hunting game. It was actually an alien creature that was buried in the ship long ago and revived by the Norwegians. (How? I don’t know—they didn’t explain it very well.) It turns out this dangerous creature has the ability to digest anything it comes in contact with and then turn into them after it kills them. By the time the crew realizes what’s exactly going on, the peril intensifies. Since this “thing” can transform into anything it touches, no one knows who’s a human and who’s an alien.

Most of what “The Thing” has to offer are the creature effects, which compose of some of the most shocking, slimy, nauseating sights you’ll ever see in a movie. As the dog opens its mouth, it turns itself inside out to reveal a creature head, grows many spider-like legs, and sprouts a lot of twitching tentacles to reach out and grab things, including the other wolves in the pen. Then, there’s a scene in which a dead person, killed by the thing, is operated on and then his stomach suddenly opens up and grows a set of large fanged teeth (yes, teeth), bites the operator’s hands off, and grows beanstalks from his neck, which decapitates him. And then the head grows more tentacles and walks around like a spider! And there’s more. Many more. They’re all convincing, but that’s what makes them most revolting.

One other problem with “The Thing” is its poor characterization. The characters are either poorly developed or not developed at all. As I check the cast list, most of the many victims are played by seemingly popular character actors. But aside from Kurt Russell as the film’s tough hero, no one in this movie stands out. Unfortunately, this means I didn’t care much for who all lived and died, and that’s a key element for a horror movie.

Why can I recommend “The Thing” if I tell people that they might be revolted by its disgusting imagery and lack of character development? Well, the effects are well-done and if you’re in the right mind set, they are fun to watch. I like the creativity that came with these special effects—there are some unique monsters here. I also liked Kurt Russell as the hero, because Russell at least made an effort to do something with his character. And there’s a real sense of atmosphere in this movie—the director John Carpenter, who made great atmosphere out of the suburbs in the creepy “Halloween,” makes use of his surroundings and effectively recreates the Antarctic. It looks real and feels real, so the action and terror surrounding it makes for some good tense moments. So don’t say I’m going soft on “The Thing,” because if I was, then…maybe I’m a Thing. (Mwahahaha!)

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